Sands' Intuition Fuels Career Path
A look at Brooke Sands' journey to reach career success
by Lauren Shear
As a midfielder, Brooke Sands is used to controlling the pace of a game. At any given moment she can be on defense protecting the pipes, and then just moments later, on the run weaving strategically past opponent players to get the ball in the back of the net. This ability to quickly shift her game takes savvy, intuition, and athleticism -- qualities Sands has applied to her off-field success in the classroom and community.
Growing up in Brookfield, Connecticut, Sands has always had a passion for sports. A two-sport athlete at Brookefield High School, she knew her love for athletics extended far beyond the field prior to coming to GW.
"I knew I was interested in athletic training in high school because I was very into athletics and science was my best class," said Sands. "I did anatomy and loved learning the physiology of the body. That's how I decided that I wanted to go into the medical field."
With the prospect of working toward a career in athletic training, Sands began to look at institutions that had both a strong lacrosse and exercise science program.
"When I was looking at schools and being recruited, I was checking out their majors and what they had to offer," said Sands. "Some schools had a four-year physical therapy program or something like that, but GW had the exercise science program. When I came on campus for the first time for the recruiting process, the coaches had me meet with certain people in the exercise science department and they basically told me that now in the medical field you have to go to graduate school, and getting this exercise science degree will give you the opportunity to pick any direction you want to go in because we have a concentration for pre-med, a concentration for physical therapy, and a concentration for strength and conditioning. I thought that was cool, because if I decided to change my mind, which I eventually did, I would have the opportunity to try something else. So I'm glad that I chose GW."
Although she had her sights set on being an exercise science major on the first day of classes freshman year, her path toward these career aspirations began to shift after gaining field experience with a chiropractor in New York City last summer.
"The chiropractor I worked with gave me the insight to look into being a PA [physician assistant]," said Sands. "So then I became really interested in that, met a PA, and he talked to me and swayed me into this direction."
Similar to the quick decision she makes when she transitions in a game from defense to offense, Sands followed her intuition and made the decision to work toward attending PA school after graduation.
To gain further field experience, she turned to Dr. Kenneth Fine, among the first group of surgeons in the country to become subspecialty certified in Orthopedic Sports Medicine. Practicing at The Orthopedic Center located in the heart of campus on F Street, Dr. Fine has extensive experience working for athletes at all levels, including the Olympic soccer teams in the 1996 summer Olympics and as the team physician and medical director of DC United. Three times a week, Sands shadows Dr. Fine on clinical visits and has the opportunity to witness his surgeries first hand.
"I get to scrub in, stand right next to him, and watch him actually do the surgeries," said Sands. "I've never witnessed anything like that before, so it's been really cool and I've seen so many different injuries and repairs so far. And then, being an athlete and getting to see the surgeries is also pretty cool because I see how people get injured, but I don't see what the recovery, treatment, and repair is like -- which is definitely something I'm enjoying."
This ability to see the recovery, treatment, and repairs has already affected Sands' mindset of incorporating her coursework and work experience to her team and her game going into next season.
"Sometimes I'll be in the training room and the trainers will be trying to diagnose what injuries are for people on the team," said Sands. "It's funny because sometimes people on the team will come up to me and be like, `Brooke, I know this is your field, what do you think is wrong with me?' And I say, `let me think.' So I give people advice and tell them to try this stretch or do this or lay off of it for a day or two and not go running crazy amounts. So it's kind of fun to be able to do that, and, like I said, now that I'm doing the surgeries too and actually get to see the structures inside the knee or the shoulder and what that all looks like, instead of just seeing it in pictures, actually seeing it close up is going to be helpful. It's very cool and I'm learning even more about how the structures actually work together. That's something I think, even senior year, I'll be more knowledgeable about."
As she continues to work with Dr. Fine this summer, Sands hopes to take this experience and truly make it her own. Although she's still unsure whether she would prefer to work as part of a private practice or in a hospital down the road, she's ready to try new things, stick with her intuition, and attack anything that gets in her way head on -- skills she emanates every single time she steps on the field.
"When I came to GW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do," said Sands. "I've changed my path since high school, but I've always wanted to work for a sports team, it's my dream, so when I go for being an orthopedics physician assistant, that would be awesome."
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